Growing up, Jane Austen was one of my favourite authors…romantic novels featuring fearless heroines meeting their perfect match often again the backdrop of the beautiful stately home. Of course, I often imagined myself at one of those stately homes, taking a turn about the lawn like Elizabeth Bennett or having a picnic like Emma Woodhouse and perhaps one day meeting my own Mr Darcy.
So it was the Jane Austen fan in me that fell in love straight away with Blenheim Palace, a beautiful stately home that immediately bought to mind Pemberley, the country estate own by the ficitional Mr Darcy himself. How I had never visited Blenheim Palace before I don’t know, it’s only an hour to Oxford by train and then a short drive and you’re there! But that’s one of the great things about blogging…it brings you to places that you’d never thought of visiting before.
I met Laura at the station and we were excited for the morning exploring the estate along with afternoon tea at the Orangery. The Palace itself is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and now home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family. Originally built as a gift to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from Queen Anne as a thank you for his victory at the Battle of Blenheim on 13th August 1704.
It is also the only country house in England to hold the title ‘palace’ without being a royal or religious residence. Sadly we didn’t have time to explore the interiors but ticket holders can explored gilded state rooms and extensive art collections within the walls
Instead Laura and I devoted our time to exploring the Formal Gardens designed by master landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who constructed the Great Lakes and planted thousands of trees to create an apparently natural landscape. Just in front of the house itself are the gorgeous water terraces made up of perfectly manicured hedges, water features and stone work.
Head a little further down and you’ll find some beautiful views of the lake, treading in the footsteps of Churchill himself. There’s even a large statue of the famous Prime Minister and you can see the spot where he proposed to his wife Clementine Hozier.
One place I was keen to see was the beautiful Rose Garden so that I could channel my inner flower fairy.
If you have time you can also explore the Duke’s Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden and the Churchill Memorial Garden – there’s a walking tour on offer or to see everything with ease you can take a buggy tour around the main sites.
After wandering around Blenheim Palace you’ll probably be a little peckish, and The Orangery Restaurant is the à la carte option for lunch and afternoon tea.
Now honestly, I was expecting something a little grander for the palace restaurant but The Orangery is light and bright with a view of the gardens.
We took our window seat, all ready to get stuck into an afternoon tea! The Pink T is inspired by the Swinging Sixties as part of the Laurent-Perrier’s celebration of 50 years of the iconic Cuvée Rosé. As the name suggests, every item on the menu is pink and it’s served along with a glass of Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.
Sandwiches are on theme and include ham with English mustard, egg and cress and cucumber and cream cheese. There’s also a prawn cocktail mille feuille and an open sandwich of smoked salmon on a baguette. Plain and fruit buttermilk scones are lovely and fluffy and served with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. The menu also noted a strawberry macaroon but this appeared to be missing from our selection.
Some of the London themed-teas are a tough act to follow and while the Pink T itself didn’t quite live up to some of the Afternoon Teas I’ve had recently, it was certainly still very enjoyable and a great option whilst exploring the grounds of Blenheim Palace.
Laura and I had the best time playing Jane Austen heroines for the day and Blenheim Palace is the ideal place for a day trip.
There lots of different options for tours and experiences at the palace including an audio guide system. Visitors can choose to access all areas (£27 for adults, 15.50 for kids) or stick to the the gardens and indoor cinema (adults, £16, children, £7.40). The Swinging Sixties afternoon tea is £42.50 and includes a glass of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé.
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Our afternoon tea was complimentary.